Here's the music video for Jack White's latest release "Freedom at 21" and it's very... not Jack White? Directed by famed director Hype Williams (who you probably have to thank for any and all of your favorite '90s and early 2000s hip hop videos), "Freedom at 21" would have it appear that Jack White's days of candy-stripes and duets with Loretta Lynn are but a sad and distant memory, having been replaced by the grittier tone of this new Blunderbuss era, not to mention a whole lot of tits and ass.
The video features a pulled-over Jack White (inexplicably in Dark Shadows make-up) being roughed up and brought into jail by a very leggy and busty cop who then allows for White to be patted-down and manhandled by all of the jail's barely-clothed female inmates. It's the ultimate fantasy for people who are turned on by overdone and gendered nightmares!
I keep looking for a subtext and, as a Jack White fan, am desperate to find one. Unfortunately, if the subtext exists, it's beyond my ken. To Williams and White's credit, the video does, in part, tell the story of the song it's representing. Here's a sampling of Freedom at 21's lyrics:
Yeah, cut off the bottoms of my feet,
Make me walk on salt.
Take me down to the police,
Charge me with assault.
Smile on her face,
She does what she wants to me.
Apart from the foot stumps (thank god), the video follows the opening lyrics rather literally, so maybe that really is all there is to it. In the end, Jack White has as much a right to be tasteless and gratuitous as anyone else, but that doesn't make the disappointment in the end-product anymore shakable.
Perhaps, it's because White's weirdness (which, for the record, is still present in "Freedom at 21") has, in the past, been channeled into some very original and creative outcomes — "Sixteen Saltines" (also off Blunderbuss) is one of the most exciting videos to come out this year — and this, for all of its acidic color-popping, Josh Homme cameos, feathers and smudged eyeliner, is a tad cliched and boring, strongly reminiscent of so many hip hop and metal videos of yesteryear.
On the other hand, cliched and boring is unexpected for White, so, in the end, he's managed to surprise us after all.